July 5, 2012
I’ve taken a cruise ship once and decided it was an expensive floating hotel with sumptuous food and contrived activities to keep you entertained between brief stops. I swore I’d never take another, but I signed on for this cruise because I remembered Barry Goldwater admitting he should never have voted to flood Glen Canyon for the dam after a group of environmentalists took him for a tour before the dam was completed. I’ve seen the pictures of Glen Canyon, now forever lost. I wanted to see the beautiful Yangtze River Canyon before the Chinese flooded it with their huge dam. It displaced millions of families, that’s millions of families. It was a very controversial dam, protested by people around the world. Anyway, our ship is nice.
After dinner, our first night, we are lavishly entertained with a program of Chinese dances and costume representing eleven dynasties of male and female clothing.
Dress clothing of the aristocracy, of course, not the everyday clothing of the working people.
It was a fabulous and enjoyable show, rich and colorful.
The extent of such finery, and pageantry surprised me. I’ve read very little Chinese history and woefully felt the lack as I listened, learned and enjoyed. Since, I’m an early riser, at 5:30 a.m. the next morning, I went to the gym on board to exercise and saw the crew busily waking up the ship, getting breakfast ready for us, and attending to all anticipated needs of passengers. At breakfast I learned a little more of the new history of China. The lavish performance of the previous night was done by the ships servers, who work hard all day then double as entertainers, staying up past 11:00 p.m. to entertain us. I’ve never been very good about setting politics aside no matter what I’m doing.
The river is and will remain a major transportation corridor for ships and barges like this coal barge, besides producing electric power.
We got a look at Bye Bye Bridge. So called because it will soon be under water. By 2004, the canyon is already half flooded. The canyon looks misty but mostly the mist is bad air quality. Chinese homes are predominantly heated with coal.
We pass half flooded caves that at one time held Japanese soldiers who lived in the canyon, unable to return to their homeland. They were in such a steep, rocky section of the canyon, they were unreachable by anyone in power. They lived on fish and birds and what few vegetables they could cadge from local farmers. In one cave, with binoculars, we could see a mummified body hanging. Another controversy in the scientific community around the world because archeologists wanted to study them and find out who they were. They were refused by the Chinese government.
The remnants of terraced gardens can be seen everywhere. The Chinese working people eat every bird, insect and plant they can devour. We saw a few waters birds, some monkeys, who will now probably become extinct because their habitat is being flooded, and fish.
This farmer, could at one time walk from his ancestral land to visit and trade with his neighbor.
The land bridge between them is flooded. For awhile, they visited each other by boat. Now that option is also gone. This farmer clings to his land until he has to take his boat and leave. It is very heart wrenching for them. Older people, hate it. Some younger workers love it. One worker on the boat told us she has her first apartment that she can own in Wuhan (oohan) City. She lives in 120 meters with a family of three. On the farm, she lived in 400 square meters with an extended family of eight. She showed us the government pictures of the canyon before it flooded. The much vaunted beauty does not compare to Glen Canyon in my opinion.
I was much more interested in the people and activity we could see along the river.
Another farm will be soon flooded. The steepness of the canyon farms were pretty amazing.Some farmers fought the flooding by building dikes, all for naught.
It had to be grueling labor to eke out a living on such land. This is old China. Here people live without knowing what goes on in their country. No electricity, or amenities. Just hard labor from hand to mouth.
At dinner, we learned to sing Happy Birthday in Chinese.
Our second day, we visit a side canyon. More tomorrow.